A Sufferer’s Hope

A man being held in a Turkish prison; parents of wayward, or addicted, or troubled children; a betrayed spouse; a grieving widower left to raise young children; parents who have buried a child; the barren longing for children–sufferers all. Death of a dream, a family, a marriage, an anticipated future; death a pall, a veil.

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted.” Psalm 34:18

Naples sunset April 5, 2016, Day Samuel was born, lived 2 hours, and died 1

There are times when God’s presence and His promises are our only hope, but sure hope they are.

“And he will swallow up… the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.'” Isaiah 25:7-9

Naples sunrise April 6, 2016- HOPE 1Naples sunrise April 6, 2016- HOPE 2

LORD, may Your presence be palpable balm. May Your word be a lighthouse, both fortress and beacon to enfold and enlighten the truth that sufferings ultimately produce hope of Your glory that does not disappoint. (Romans 5:2-5)

Eyes Up, Feet Forward

“One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what is ahead, I press on for the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 

Paul was content, but never complacent. What an example of one who always had his eyes upward and feet forward, at the Spirit’s direction actively pursuing His Lord and pressing on in God’s work for him. He was not finished until God took him home.

Patmos arches and sky

Moses was another such example. In Exodus 40 (also in Numbers 9), “Moses finished the work [on the tabernacle],” but that didn’t mean sitting back. There is no static in the Christian life. God designed time for worship and rest, and action. “The cloud covered the tent of meeting and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. If the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until it was taken up. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. At the command of the LORD they camped, and at the command of the LORD they set out. They kept the charge of the LORD.” We must stay prepared to follow God’s bidding.

Lord, keep my eyes alert, my will eager, my feet facing forward and ready to move whenever and wherever the cloud moves.

He Thirsted, I Drink

Early in His ministry, recorded in John 4, Jesus came weary to Jacob’s well in Samaria, and asked the woman there for a drink. It was noon, “the sixth hour.” They proceeded to talk, and He offered her living water. “Whoever drinks of the water I give him will never be thirsty forever. The water I will give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

McKinney Falls gushing in crevice

Less than three years later, also at “the sixth hour,” nailed to a cross, bearing the weight of my sin and the sin of all His own through the ages, “the Roman soldiers offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but…he would not drink it.” (Matthew 27:34,45) Jesus refused to numb his agony or his mind so He could fully accomplish what He had come to earth to do.

It was not until ”the ninth hour,” after three hours of darkness where He bore God’s full wrath, after He split open the way to God, seen in the temple curtain being torn in two, that He would drink. “Knowing that all was now finished, [Jesus] said, ‘I thirst.’” He was given a sponge full of sour wine on a hyssop branch, enough so He could call out in a loud voice, “It is finished!” and breathe His last. (John 19:28-30; Luke 23:44-46)

Jesus, who refused to drink until He had satisfied justice for our sin and sake, offers living water to satisfy us forever. What a Savior!

Whatever my hour, Lord, may I remember Your refusal, remember “It is finished,” and drink deep draughts of Your living water, sated with full satisfaction in You.

 

Freed To Be Slaves

We are freed to be bondservants, to be “slaves of the Master who bought us.” (2 Peter 2:1) The only way to serve Christ is no longer to serve the devil and the world. The two servitudes could not be more vastly different. One is imposed by a greedy, deceptive, relentless task master, is oppressive and causes despair; the other is offered by a benevolent, generous Lord, is freeing and brings satisfaction, delight, and joy.

“Whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.  The law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (2 Peter 2:19; Romans 8:2,6; 1 Peter 2:16)

We have many gods from which to choose: ambition, education, fitness, reputation, our families, comfort and safety, self-gratification in appearance, recreation or pleasure, wealth and perceived security, even control. The world’s offerings are limitless. But there is one God Who is worthy to be served, and whose rule is love.

At the end of his life, Joshua stated his convictions and challenged Israel to do the same. He knew the Matthew 6 truth that “no one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” The decision he presents is ours to consider today. “Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)

South Africa, child saluting

“I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you. You are my servant whom I have chosen. I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator, your King.” Isaiah 43

Adonai, Master, You have freed me that I might live for You. Thank You that I am Yours. Overcome me, that I might serve You with joy and abandon all my days.

An Ongoing Story

Albert Gallatin Edwards, after working as a merchant, an army general, and Assistant Treasury Secretary under five U.S. presidents, in 1887, at age 75, founded an investment firm that has served generations for well over a century. Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born. Moses set out at 80 and spent the last one third of his life leading the Israelites to the Promised Land. What an inspiration! We always have value in God’s economy, and use in His kingdom purposes. Every day and breath is a gift from Him to be spent for Him. When one chapter closes, a new one begins, penned by the Author of Life who is writing the whole story.

“For you, O LORD, are my hope, my trust from my youth. Upon you have I leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent. From my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your powers to all those to come.” Psalm 71:5-6,9,17-18

Cape Coast, Ghana, stairway to sky 10-16

“One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14.

What new chapter might God have for us? What latent skill might He desire to hone at this stage in life to use in new service, work, ministry?

Lord, You entrust each day, each year, to us Your people. And You have numbered these days. May I spend them purposefully, constructively, unselfishly, in a way that shows forth Your goodness and worth, Your wondrous works to the next generation.

Partaking of the Divine

We are the richest of royalty, yet often live as paupers. 2 Peter 1 tells us we have been given “all things that pertain to life and godliness,” have been called to “God’s glory and excellence,” have been “granted precious and very great promises,” that we may be “partakers of the divine nature.” But often, the fleshly nature wins out in our attitude, outlook, preferences, decisions, words, tone of voice, impulses. God’s equipping is perfect and sufficient, but we are not automatons. Peter reminds us that we have a part in this mysterious thing called sanctification. “Make every effort…add….increase…be diligent…practice these qualities.”

The gift is, “we have been established in the truth.” And the gift is also, we must exercise our confidence in that truth by applying it, by “supplementing faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus.” Truth and sufficiency come from Jesus; effectiveness and fruitfulness require our effort. Appropriating what is true confirms our ownership of it.

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” John 15:5,16

Lord, You have granted all that is needed to live out Your gracious calling and partake of Your divine nature. I renounce sloth and complacency. In every endeavor, may I eagerly, with steadfastness and zeal, practice what You supply, for Your glory.

Be All There

Famed, martyred missionary Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” God has planted each of us in specific places, circumstances, relationships, vocations, and He has appointed for us purposes and assignments. How easy it is to get distracted by self-driven plans, or lesser things, and not to be in the moment where we are, in tune with HIs will. “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Am I ‘all there,’ all in, for Him?

Jump in, Get going, Cape Coast, Ghana

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be self-controlled and sober-minded…Above all, keep on loving one another earnestly. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 4:7-11

May I never be slothful in zeal, but fervent in spirit, all here to serve You, my Lord. (Romans 12:11)